Immigration Questions: (954) 382-5378

  POSTING DATE: April 16,  2018
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Immigration News & Updates eNewsletter ©  2011  - 2018 
For questions about U.S. Residency, Green Cards and Immigration Visas, Visit our Website at: or  call our office at: (954) 382-5378
Questions & Answers
This Week's Immigration News 
By Immigration Attorney Caroly Pedersen
Question: I have a two years green card I got by my marriage to a us citizen. In mid 2017 me and my wife filed for my permanent residency and we got the receipt, but no approval yet. Its been a long time now and my one year extension on residency will expire next month. I have been calling the immigration 800 number and they keep telling me they will do a status request, but I never hear back. My drivers license is going to expire soon as well. Can you please tell me what to do? Thanks.
Answer: That is a very common question lately. Applications to remove conditions on residency to obtain permanent Green Cards for spouses (Form I-751) are generally taking much more than a year for USCIS processing. And as incredible as it seems, there is no option available to expedite these cases. Its important to know that the initial receipt that conditional residents receive (called form I-797 Notice of Action) automatically extends residency status for a year. However, many employers and other government agencies do not recognize this.  

My advice to Conditional Residents is this: first, don’t be concerned that your case has been pending so long 12 months or more, that is now the normal processing time these days. Second, once you are a month or so away from expiration of your one year extension receipt date, you can go online to the Infopass website and make an appointment at your local USCIS office to get a residency extension stamp, called an I-551 in your passport. Bring your 1) Infopass Appointment Notice 2) I-797 Notice of Action receipt and 3) passport. Your residency should be extended for up a year. Finally, if you receive a USCIS request for more documentary evidence to prove that your marriage is real, take it very, very seriously. Most couples who file form I-751 do not realize how serious the process is and have no idea of the kind of documentary evidence the USCIS expects to be submitted. As a consequence, many couples simply enclose copies of recent tax returns, bills and bank statements for the past month. These submissions will not meet USCIS requirements and often result in even longer delays in processing(up to an additional 3-6 months or more) and in many cases, a USCIS interview at the local office, which is not usually required for well documented cases. 

My job as an Immigration attorney often involves representing new clients in rectifying poorly documented I-751 applications for removal of conditions they filed by themselves, once they come to me with a multiple page request they received from the USCIS Service Center requesting every marital document under the sun or in representing them at a USCIS interview scheduled at their local office.

The key to success in these types of cases, is of course filing the initial application properly, with extensive documentation of the marriage from the time the foreign spouse received the conditional green card. That means twenty one (21) months of joint tax returns/W-2’s, joint leases (or property title), joint bank accounts (every single page for every month), joint car insurance (for every year), joint utility bills (for every month), Drivers Licenses showing the same address, etc. Affidavits referred to in the I-751 form instructions are really not necessary if you have enough marital documentation to prove to the USCIS that you and your U.S. Citizen spouse continue to live together and if you only submit the Affidavits, your case will almost certainly be sent to your local office for an Interview. 

Once a request for evidence is issued by the USCIS, the second chance of success is to provide the USCIS officer with all the (above) documents from the time the green card was received to the date of the request. However, in some cases, couples have not understood the importance of marital documentation and simply do not have many joint marital items together. For instance, they don’t file joint tax returns together, don’t share a joint bank account, don’t have car insurance together, don’t have a lease because they live with relatives, don’t have the same address on their Driver’s Licenses. These are all big RED FLAGS for officers of a fake marriage and it can be a real uphill battle to prove to a USCIS officer at the interview that the couple’s marriage is in fact real. However, it can be done, and I have had great success, even for couples with the most challenging cases.
Important Tips On Child Support 
And Naturalization
Immigration How To:
How Do I get a Driver’s License if I am illegal?
Helpful Immigration Tips You Can Use...

  Immigration News & Updates              eNewsletter
Tips On Getting Your U.S. Travel History Records Quickly & Easily
Foreign travelers to the U.S. often need to determine how many days they have spent inside the U.S. for Tax and other purposes. However, it can sometimes be difficult to determine exact dates by using one’s own passport stamps alone, since some entry stamps may be stamped over existing stamps, with exact dates almost impossible to read. Now there is a quick and easy way to get your past five-year travel history. 

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency keeps automated records of entry and exit data for non-immigrants who visit the U.S.. You can now access and printout your own travel history and current I-94 Arrival/Departure card by visiting the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website.
Driving Without A License Is Now A Deportable Crime – Time To Consider Getting A Legal Driver’s Licenses While You Still Can!
Failure to provide proof of child support payments is one of the most common reasons that Naturalization applications are denied every day. This often happens even when a parent has actually paid child support, but simply fails to provide evidence of payments. Generally, Residents must show that they have “Good Moral Character” in order to be eligible for U.S. Citizenship. 

This covers the preceding five year period prior to applying for Naturalization for most Residents, and three years for those eligible to apply for early Naturalization through marriage to a U.S. Citizen. 
 Residency Processing Times Increasing At Many Florida USCIS Offices 
Now that the USCIS has revised its website processing times reporting for many types of immigration cases at service centers and local field offices nationwide, a disturbing picture emerges about excessive backlogs at many offices, including those in South Florida. It was not so long ago that a typical family residency case took 3-6 months and often less. At times, my clients received their residency interview even before they received their work permits! But as time has gone on, in the past year processing times have drastically increased to an astounding 21 months at one Florida USCIS field office. The reasons for the delays are likely many, including volume of cases, staffing, etc. 
One of the main Citizenship requirements for a parent who does not live with his or her minor children, is demonstrating payment of support for all children whether in the U.S. or outside, until the age of 18, for the past five years. This is required whether or not there is a Court Order for child support payments. The standard is that if you are a parent and do not live with your minor children, you still have the moral responsibility to support them, even if the custodial parent does not require you to do so. This corresponds with Question 30 H of the Naturalization application asks “Have you EVER Failed to support your dependents or to pay alimony". Even when a Resident ticks off “No”, if the application lists minor children living at any address other than that of the applicant, the USCIS will generally ask for proof of child support payments for all children under the age of 23 at the time of filing the application, since you only need to prove Good Moral Character for the past five years, and payments for children up until they turned age 18. For example, if you apply for Naturalization and you have children ages 17, 19 and 24, you would need to provide evidence that you paid child support for the 17 year old for the past five years and the 19 year old for four years until the child turned age 18. No proof would be required for the 24 year old. 

Naturalization applicants, who do not provide adequate proof of child support payments at their interview, later receive a USCIS notice from the officer, requesting that the additional documentation be provided. This is often a total shock to many applicants, who were not aware of the requirement to provide proof, believing that since there is no child support order from the court, they are not required to show payments. Many applicants fail to provide any or all the documents requested, which usually results in denial of the case and loss of the USCIS filing fee. 

In Florida, the simplest case to prove is one in which there is a court order for child support and the applicant makes the payments through the Florida Department of Revenue. This way, there is a record of every child support payment and the applicant can get a printout showing of all support payments and provide that, along with a certified court order for child support. Those who are in arrears and are not current on child support payments, should wait until they are caught up before filing for Naturalization. Other proof includes copies of wage garnishment deductions from paychecks, cancelled checks or other proof of monthly payments.

It gets a little tricky, however, for applicants who don’t have a court order from the U.S. or other country and don’t make formal payments through a government system. In such cases, applicants should provide proof of payments for the required period, through Cancelled checks, Money Order receipts, Western Union (or other money transfers) receipts or transcripts (a history of payments by wire transfer can be ordered from western union and other companies for up to five years or more) and a notarized letter from the custodial parent that all child support has been paid and is up to date, along with a copy of their proof of identity, like driver’s license, passport biographic page, etc.

Residents who plan to file for Naturalization in the coming years, who are not currently making formal child support payments should begin to do so immediately. For those without court orders making payments inside the U.S., its best to get a signed, notarized agreement with the custodial parent, which sets out an exact monthly payment to be made. Then, make only formal, check or money order payments and save the receipts for each one, make sure and write child support on the memo line. That way, if the custodial parent later refuses to provide a letter confirming that child support is up to date, the applicant will have proof of the agreement and of all payments made. The same advice goes for those with children abroad. Get a formal agreement between the parents and begin sending regular monthly Wester Union or other transfers directly to the custodial parent, not to any other person’s name. Finally, never, ever, ever pay cash! There is no evidence of payment and even if a custodial parent writes a letter confirming child support payments, a USCIS officer can still request evidence of payments.

Proving payment of child support can be particularly problematic for those with children abroad in the Caribbean and other countries, where there is usually never a court order for child support and payments are often made casually, not formally. In a typical case, a father may pay for a child’s school, clothes other expenses, but not pay child support to the mother directly each month. In these cases, it can often be very difficult to prove child support payments. For those currently supporting children in this matter who intend to apply for Naturalization in the near future, the best advice is to start paying support in a regular, formal manner. Send monthly Western Union or other payments in regular amounts and only send in the name of the custodial parent, not in the name of another person or family member, since there is no proof that the funds were actually paid to the parent for child support. Keep a log of the date and amount and a copy of every transfer in date order so that you don’t have to sort through them later. 

The key to success with Naturalization and any other immigration matters is to learn what the requirements are and plan carefully to make sure that all the requirements are met before applying. Filing an application without this knowledge and preparation can in some cases, end up being a waste of time and money. This is especially true for proving child support, since it often requires extensive documentation, affidavits, receipts, Western Union transaction reports, which take time and a lot of effort to assemble. So the best approach is to have the documents available before filing the case. 

We can assist you in understanding what documents you will need to provide in your particular case, and properly present it to the USCIS on your behalf, just give us a call for a free consultation at: 954-382-5378.

However, those embarking on the process should be aware of the lengthy processing times ahead. Here are the approximate times posted for local USCIS field offices in Florida:

Office                    Range of Processing Times
Fort Myers              2 to 20 months
Jacksonville            6.5 to 13 months
Kendall                  10 to 18 months
Miami                      9 to 19 months
Oakland Park         14 to 21.5 months
Orlando                  10 to 18 months
Tampa                    6.5 to 15 months
West Palm Beach 10.5 to 17 months

See all USCIS office processing times
You’ll need have the following information handy: your first and last name, your full date of birth, your passport number, and the country of issuance of your passport

Visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website to access your records:
Obtain Your I-94 & Travel History
Under Trumps new draconian enforcement policies, any crime may subject an Immigrant to deportation. One of the most common violations of the law by many Immigrants, is driving without a valid license.

 This is particularly true in Florida, a state which does not issue licenses to anyone who is not in legal immigration status. However, many states do, and this may be a very good time for you to make it a priority to get a valid Driver’s License.
States which have passed laws to provide Driver’s Licenses to Immigrants regardless of Immigration status defy a Federal Law called “Real ID”, which prohibits the issuance of Driver’s Licenses to anyone who is not in legal immigration status. Under Obama Presidency, states were encouraged to refuse to implement “Real ID” and to instead issue Driver’s Licenses to Immigrants.

However, the Trump Administration is trying to “crackdown” on States with sanctuary cities and those which continue to issue licenses to Immigrants. As a result, in the future the practice may be suspended, however those who have the license will be able to retain it. So, instead of putting your liberty and security at risk everyday when you go out on the road without a license, you would be well be advised to safeguard your right to drive legally and avoid the risk of charges for driving without a license and potential Immigration detention under Trump’s strict enforcement policies. 

Since Florida law does not allow Immigrants without legal status to obtain a Driver’s License, Immigrants in our state will need to seek alternative options available in other states.. According to the National Immigration Law Center, the following states/districts now provide licenses to Immigrants residing in the jurisdiction, regardless of their Immigration status: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, DC, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, Nevada, Puerto Rico, Utah, Vermont and Washington. 

You can contact each state’s Driver’s License website to find out what documents you will need and visit the National Immigration Law Center site to get a review of each state’s requirements.

Find out Driver’s License Registration Requirements:
National Immigration Law Center
Question: : After waiting for about 14 years for my sister to sponsor me, I finally got my interview at the embassy last week and just got the sealed package that we are supposed to take to America with us and give to immigration once we get there. The instructions say that I have to pay immigration visa fees, but we are confused because we already paid the fees for the bills we got from the national visa center. So I think we can just use those receipts and don’t need to pay any new ones, is that correct?
Answer: That a great question. Immigrant Visa fees are different than National Visa Center (NVC) fees, which are paid in order for the NVC to process immigrant visa cases. Once the Immigrant has attended his or her Consular appointment and been issued the Immigrant Visa in the passport, an additional $220 fee must be paid for each immigrating family member before they arrive in the U.S.. The Immigrant Visa (IV) fee payment receipt must be presented to the immigration inspectors at the U.S. port of arrival in order for the Immigrant’s Green Card to be ordered for production. Without proof of the IV fee payment, no Green Card will be ordered. To pay the fees and get your receipt, you need to have the instruction sheet provided by the Consulate which gives each individual’s Alien Registration Number (A#) and Department of State (DOS) Case ID. File Online by going online to: and select the “Log in” button, then select “USCIS Immigrant Fee” from the chart. Enter you’re a# and DOS Case ID. Once the fees are paid, print out 2 sets of receipts, one to give the U.S. immigration inspector and one to keep for your records. Once you enter the U.S. and the officer inputs your information, you will be requested to provide the address in the U.S. where you want your new Green Card sent, so be sure it is accurate. Within 30 – 90 days or so you should receive your card. Make sure and immediately make a copy of both the front and back for your records and keep it in a safe place. The next step is to apply for your social security card at the local Social Security Administration. It usually takes about a week to receive the card in the mail. The final step is to apply for your driver’s license and you are all set! Good luck! Answer: